Music supports spoken language for hearing-impaired patients

Music can be used to rehabilitate and develop speech and language skills in hearing-impaired children, according to a new paper by researchers at the University of Helsinki and published in the journal Hearing Research.

Researchers, led by Ritva Torppa, PhD, lecturer and speech therapist, compiled their own findings and those of other researcher, which demonstrate that musical activities develop children's perception of prosody, such as rhythm and pitch variation and spoken language.

"These skills make children's lives easier," Torppa said. "Listening to speech, for example, in noisy surroundings becomes less stressful, while communicating with others and absorbing information in school and everyday life also becomes easier."

The paper includes basic guidelines for using music to support development of spoken language and are suitable regardless of the type of hearing disability. The guidelines are suitable for the parents of children with hearing impairments, early childhood education providers, teachers, speech therapists, and other rehabilitators of children with hearing disabilities, as well as the hearing-impaired themselves.

When developing a music playschool designed for children using a cochlear implant, Torppa said she noticed that music, especially singing, benefits the brain of hearing-impaired children and their spoken language. The goal of the music playschool, speech-music group, is to improve the perception of speech and spoken language.

Employing music in early childhood education and basic education benefits all and safeguards the right to high-quality learning for children with language disorders and children with developmental disabilities, according to Minna Huotilainen, PhD, brain researcher and co-author of the study.

"The use of musical methods in teaching intensifies learning and is in line with the results of the latest brain research," she said.

Music also gives every child and young person a voice of their own, a channel for self-expression and the chance to be heard. Huotilainen said she is hoping for musical skills to be better acknowledged in the training of early childhood educators and basic education teachers.

"It would be great if the musical skills already acquired before university studies could be acknowledged at the entrance examination stage," she said.